In the summer of 1983 I passed my qualifying exams in my doctoral program. The exams included five days of written tests and an oral exam with all of my professors participating. Passing the exams qualified me to begin the processes for writing a dissertation.
Following the exams I accepted the pastorate of the Middletown Church of God. It was a small church in the eastern suburbs of Louisville. I had wanted to pastor since leaving my teaching position at Northwest Bible College in 1979. I loved pastoring but we were starving. The church barely had enough receipts to pay the mortgage and utilities after sending our apportionments to the denominational offices. A teenager clipped our car and we lived off of the insurance money for a couple of months.
Late the next spring we were informed the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland was looking for a Minister of Education. There were two things I had resolved about my future ministry. First, I would never be an associate pastor again. Second, I would never live in Cleveland, Tennessee again. Cheryl was equally adamant about not returning to Cleveland. When we left Cleveland in 1980 she had boasted “God will have to roll me up like a basketball and bounce me down I-75 to get me to move back to Cleveland.”
But extreme poverty and other personal considerations made Cleveland look appealing to her. She suggested that I should call the search committee at Westmore; it was a paying job after all. I quipped, “God knows where I am and they know where I am. If He wants me there, they can call me.” I should have known better.
The very next day I got a call from Doug LeRoy, the chairman of the Board of Christian Education at Westmore wanting to know if I might be interested in applying for the position. I promised to pray about it, but ended the conversation just as determined to not consider the job as I was the day before.
After prayer and discussing it with Cheryl and in light of the coincidence of the timing of the call, I concluded I should go for an interview just to settle the idea in Cheryl’s mind. I was certain I wasn’t a good fit with Westmore and I knew I wouldn’t consider it. I made the call and we went for the interview.
The interview with the Board went well but I wasn’t really trying to impress them. I did get a feel for their commitments and I was impressed with them. I had a long meeting with the pastor, Paul Hinson. It was during that interview I felt God nudging me to accept the position. I left his office knowing they were going to offer the job to me and that I had to accept it.
A couple of months later we were in an orange U-haul truck bouncing down I-75 to Cleveland when God reminded Cheryl of her boasting. I am thankful God knows where we are and He remembers everything we say, every idle word and not just our “sacred vows.”
April 16, 2010